Coffee House

William Hague goads Labour on Europe

30 January 2013

What a lot of fun William Hague had this afternoon in the Commons as he opened a debate tabled by the Prime Minister on Europe. ‘I have not yet exhausted the list of the Coalition’s achievements,’ he told an MP trying to intervene. His speech was rather like a slow motion version of the PM’s address last week, but with words like ‘subsidiarity’ added in for good measure, and a longer tour of how wonderfully robust the Tory party is on Europe.

Though some Tory MPs made their own thoughts on the referendum clear (James Clappison called for legislation in this parliament for a referendum in the next, and Bill Cash said he’d rather the plebiscite take place before the European elections), the focus was on poking fun at the Labour party: a rare moment of Coalition unity. ‘Never has such certainty created such uncertainty so quickly,’ quipped Hague, finally reaching his attack on the opposition after that very long list of coalition achievements.


He was rewarded with some nice squirming from Douglas Alexander on where Labour does stand, and another forceful speech from the eurosceptic cuckoo in the Labour nest Kate Hoey, who said her party would ‘inevitably’ offer a referendum after realising their current position was wrong.

Alexander tried to sketch out the Labour position on change in Europe as clearly as the confusion in his party would allow:

‘The Opposition have said that reform rather than repatriation is how to achieve the change in Europe we want… We have said that we will judge on a case-by-case basis the merits or demerits of where those powers reside.’

But Alexander did have one point: the current unity in the Tory party hinges partly on its MPs having no idea what Cameron will demand, or what he’ll get. ‘The impression of unity can only be achieved through the device of obscurity,’ he said.

They are still at it, and are expected to go on until 7pm.

More Spectator for less. Subscribe and receive 12 issues delivered for just £12, with full web and app access. Join us now.

  • Radford_NG

    Labour’s position on the EU and free movement of people was given by Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander in a speech at Chatham House on 17 Jan.[This can probably be found]This is titled “Britain’s Future in Europe”….(Chatham House calls it’s self the leading independent foreign affairs think-tank.It just happens to think the same as the Foreign Office.)

    • telemachus

      It is Danny Alexander that today is peddling reasonable views on Europe

      • Rhoda Klapp

        Perhaps you are unaware that ‘peddling’ carries a connotation of selling dodgy goods to an unsuspecting public. Or pehaps you are. anyhow, you got it right.

        • DWWolds

          Thanks Rhoda!

          Actually some friends of mine were even more blunt. We were at an European reunion meeting in Finland eighteen months or so ago. One of the Finns came up to me one evening and said: “We’ve just had a very deep political and philosophical discussion in the men’s sauna and do you know what we decided? That the EU is like the Soviet Union and, like the Soviet Union, one day it will collapse.

          I’m not sure who took part in the discussion but, as it was a European meeting, it is likely they were of mixed nationalities, mainly from Northern European.

        • telemachus

          Peddling to me is hard sell
          Necessary round here

      • David B

        No he did what Labour have been doing for a long time, opposing everything in the hope they can create more division in the government. But what they have achieved is to deliver an in/out referendum and now they don’t know how to react as they are terrified of the public opinion. Now they are using the only policy they have left – decisive indecisiveness with plenty of prevarication

  • HooksLaw

    Hoey is in the wrong party. But it does illustrate the blinkered mindset.

  • Hexhamgeezer

    I can’t help thinking that headline is missing an apostrophe, an ‘s’ and an ‘n’

    • telemachus


    • the viceroy’s gin

      Oh aren’t you the subtle one?

      And I agree.

  • 2trueblue

    Listening to parliament today discussing Europe was enlightening. The great thing about the situation is that we can get a better idea about how our rulers think on the matter, and whether we, the public, matter, and are entitled to a view. Whatever their views, it has shaken things up a bit, and that has to be a good thing.

  • David Lindsay

    They should have asked him why he had not turned up to the boundaries vote last night. Nor did Ken Clarke.

    • Fergus Pickering

      Because, you twerp, the vote was lost already due to LibDem treachery.

      • David Lindsay

        If it makes you feel better to believe that that was why…

        • pilsden

          They knew why, he was at a UK/US alliance reception for Hilary Clinton
          what is so sinister about that.

          • HooksLaw

            Has the great Lindsay never heard of pairing? or the fact that government ministers, not least the Foreign Secretary has other things to do?

          • Tom Tom

            Anything to do with Hilary Clinton is sinister

        • Chris lancashire

          Maths dear boy, maths.

    • telemachus

      Ken is peddling the truth today
      Listen as 0810 Today Program

Can't find your Web ID? Click here